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Editorial Style Guide

The editorial style guide provides direction for Sonoma State University’s content creators who produce communications for websites, social media, and other marketing and communications collateral. 

SSU follows the editorial style established by the CSU Chancellor’s Office and defers to it for recommended usage of words, phrases, numerals, and punctuation when writing about and for Sonoma State University. You will find the complete style guide on the site.

CSU Editorial Style Guide

If you encounter a style that is not noted, please reference the Associated Press Stylebook.


The following are a handful of the most common elements of style that Sonoma State content creators encounter in their writing. For a complete style manual, see the CSU Editorial Style Guide

Abbreviations and Acronyms

  • Spell out the full name of the organization, group or program, etc., at the first mention, followed by the abbreviation or acronym in parentheses if the organization will be referred to again. See the Acronyms, Abbreviations and Organization Names section of the complete guide for examples that are often found in university writing.
  • To create a plural, just add s; for the possessive, add 's.
  • Never add SSU in parentheses after Sonoma State University or CSU after California State University.
  • Do not add an acronym after the full name in a title or heading.
    • Correct: Political Science BA Program Learning Outcomes 
    • Incorrect: Political Science BA Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Academic Degrees

All official degree names, including the discipline, are capitalized: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts in English, Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Business Administration, Master of Spanish

  • Unofficial names of degrees are not capitalized: history degree, bachelor’s degree in computer science, early childhood education master’s degree
  • Always use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc. 
    • The department offers forty-two master's programs. 
    • The graduating class included a total of 500 master's students. 
  • Do not capitalize "bachelor's" and "master's" alone. 
    •  She said she hoped to earn her master's by next spring.
  • Do not use periods in degree abbreviations: BA, BMus, BFA, MS, EdD, and PhD.
  • The word degree should not follow an abbreviation.
    • She has a BA in English literature.


  • Use only for corporations, businesses, and organizations that include it as part of the formal name (AT&T, Simon & Schuster).
  • Do not substitute the ampersand for ‘and’ except in charts, graphs, lists, or tabular material. 


wide (suffix): Hyphenate suffix when base word is three or more syllables, such as university-wide but campuswide, systemwide, statewide.


Academic and Administrative Titles

  • Capitalize titles when they precede the name
    • President Lee, Chancellor White, and Professor McGonagall met this week.
  • In text, titles following the names or used alone are lowercase:
    • The chancellor and Sara Flores, professor of anthropology, met today.

Academic Majors, Minors, Courses

  • Lowercase all majors except those containing proper nouns. 
    • His major is English; her major is engineering. Sue is majoring in Asian studies. 
  • General subjects are lowercase 
    • algebra, chemistry
  • Names of specific courses are capitalized 
    • Algebra I, Introduction to Sociology

Department Names

  • Names of departments are capitalized only when using the full formal name, or when the department name is the proper name of a nationality, people, or race. Do not abbreviate to “dept.”
    • Department of Biology; the biology department
    • Department of English; the English department
  • In most cases, the formal name of departments, schools, offices, and divisions begins with the administrative description, followed by the descriptive name. For centers, institutes, programs, and other entities, the formal name varies.

Titles, Headings, Subheadings

  • Capitalize principal words, including conjunctions and prepositions of four letters or more, and at the beginning or end of the line (if four letters).
    • Become the Best Version of You
    • The Ideal College Experience, Two Centuries in the Making
  • Capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs (even the two-letter word is), adjectives, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions (because, if, since, when, etc.). 
  • Capitalize the second word of a hyphenated word in a title. 
  • Lowercase articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, for, nor), and prepositions of three or fewer letters (of, for, at, in, by). These should not be capitalized unless they are the first or last word of the title. Lowercase to when it functions in an infinitive. The capitalization of as depends upon its function. If as is used as a preposition, it is lowercase; if as is used as an adverb, conjunction, or pronoun, it is uppercase. (Most uses will be uppercase.)


  • As a rule, Sonoma State uses the serial comma, so you should use commas to separate elements in a series before the conjunction in a simple series (the "and" in the following example): 
    • Jackie, Marsha, and Kelly are expected.
  • In a longer and/or more complex list, however, you should use a comma before the conjunction to give the reader a pause.

Courtesy Titles

  • Generally, in text, do not use courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Miss) when using first and last names.
    • Correct Richard Espinoza and Lisa Kim
    • Incorrect: Mr. Richard Espinoza and Ms. Lisa Kim

Dates, Days,  Years


  • Use the cardinal number in dates: 
    • Correct: The party is on March 3. 
    • Incorrect: The party is March 3rd)
  • Do not use ‘on’ if it can be avoided. 
  • Do not use a comma in dates that include only the month and year 
    • January 2002 
  • If giving the month, day, and year, the year is set off with commas. 
    • September 11, 2001, is a day all of us will remember.
  • When writing out a date like July 4, it is always "July 4," not July 4th. Is there an instance where 4th can be used when referring to the date? Yes, the "4th of July" or "fourth of July" is correct because you are placing it in a series of all the days in July.

Days, Months

  • Do not abbreviate days of the week or months.


  • Use four digits when naming a year in text. 
    • We had more students in 1998 than in 1997.
  • If the time period you are describing encompasses years that are in the same century, it is not necessary to include all four digits in the second year. 
    • The data from 2006-07 show that we had more students than in 2000-10. 
    • The 2008-09 annual report is complete.
  • If the years are in different centuries, use all four digits for both years. 
    • The report includes data from 1999-2000.


  • Don't use the courtesy title Doctor or Dr. unless the person holds a medical degree (e.g., MD, DDS, DVM)
  • SSU editorial style recommends that in most instances, a person’s credentials can and should be noted within the context of the publication, typically close to the first appearance of the person’s name.
    • Arnold Smith, a professor of physics, spoke to the February colloquium.
    • Cynthia Jones, who holds a doctorate in history, presented a paper at the international conference.
    • Don James, a professor of communication studies, and his team are studying the origins of use of film in medicine.


  • Always use a person's first and last name the first time they are mentioned in a story.


  • Spell out the numbers one through nine, including the ordinal form (first, ninth), except for GPA, credit hours, percentages, decimals, book sections and pages, or when the number is part of the official term, such as 7th Fleet.
    • She has a 4.00 GPA.
    • He is taking 6 credit hours this semester.
    • That's 5 percent more than it was last week.
    • See Chapter 3, page 7 for the answer.
    • He is the third professor so honored.
  • Use figures in a range or series where at least one of the numbers is more than two digits 
    • an eight-week program, but an 8- to 12-week period. 
  • Do not use both a figure and a word to indicate one number. 
    • Correct: He had three classes.
    • Incorrect:  He had three (3) classes.

Phone Numbers

  • Use figures. 
  • Use hyphens, not periods.
  • The form: 212-621-1500. 
  • For international numbers, use 011 (from the U.S.), the country code, the city code and the telephone number: 011-44-20-7535-1515.
  • Form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000.
  • If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-621-1500, ext. 2.


  • Use only one space after a period at the end of a sentence, not two. ​

Sonoma State University

  • Refer to the institution on first reference as Sonoma State University. Thereafter, SSU, Sonoma State, the university are appropriate. The name ‘Sonoma’ should never be used in reference to the institution.

Time (a.m., p.m.)

  • Except for schedules or agendas, use 2 p.m. rather than 2:00 p.m. 
    • We will meet at 1 p.m. to discuss the program.
  • However, if any of the times include minutes (2:15 p.m.), include minutes for all times. 
    • The first meeting was scheduled at 3:15 p.m. and the second at 4:00 p.m.
  • In text, say from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m., not "from 2:15-2:45 p.m." 
  • Use "noon" rather than "12 p.m."​

Vice President, Vice Chancellor

  • No hyphen